Is Parenting Really A Thankless Job?

by Robin Lunsford
parenting is a thankless job
AleksandarNakic / iStock

They say parenting is a thankless job.

The reality is that parenting is a job in which the work is often done when no one is looking. It’s a job in which the work often goes unnoticed at the time it is being done.

It starts when they are first born. It’s the feedings and diaper changes and snuggles in the night that we know they will never remember. But meeting their needs comes naturally. We are compelled to do so, and we are rewarded by seeing them thrive.

And from those early days on, our work continues, unwavering.

It’s reading the same book over and over — one whose rhymes you will never forget, but they soon will.

It’s pining over first foods.

It’s setting an alarm every hour through the night when they are sick so that you don’t sleep through checking their temperature and piggy-backing the needed Tylenol and Motrin.

It’s stressing and asking their doctor about every milestone.

It’s realizing that the milestones come and go too quickly.

It’s sneaking into their bedrooms every night to gently kiss their cheeks and listen to them breathe.

It’s reading article after article about how to teach them generosity, how to get them to get along with each other, how to discipline in the most effective and loving way.

It’s hiding in the bathroom and crying when it’s been a long day or when you and your spouse have had an argument.

It’s drying your tears and putting on a smile before you emerge to sing another song, play another game, or wipe another butt.

It’s laying out clothes for their first day of school.

It’s getting on your hands and knees to wipe jelly off the floor, even after they swore they “cleaned up so good, Mommy.”

It’s packing lunches.

It’s staying up until the early hours of the morning gluing their school projects back together or baking cupcakes for their parties.

It’s finally getting them into bed and then starting another hour or two of work around the house.

It’s finally getting that long-awaited break, some “me time,” and then spending it wondering if they are okay and having fun.

It’s dealing with the pressure of work stress and then coming home and jumping right into another set of duties.

It’s hearing the backlash from your boss or coworkers when you call out or request off so you can be there for “Math with Moms” or “Dads and Donuts.”

It’s following through with discipline and sticking to boundaries, even though it’d be so much easier in the moment not to.

It’s prioritizing, and leaving some things undone so that you can run them from this sport to the next and back again.

It’s going years without buying yourself new clothes or skipping that one thing you’ve been saving for so that you can buy them an instrument and hear them play the wrong notes over and over until they finally get it.

It’s staying up late at night wondering if they are having a good time at their first sleepover.

It’s staying up late at night wondering if they are making the right choices on their first date.

It’s networking with everyone you know to help them find a job or get into the college program they want.

It’s letting them walk out the door, knowing that they are going to make a life of their own, and wishing that all their dreams come true…and praying that you will always be home to them.

They say parenting is a thankless job.

The reality is, it is not completely thankless, although it is selfless. It is selfless, not only because it requires giving so much of oneself, but it requires often doing so in secret.

There are thanks. Sometimes it really does come in a simple “Thank you, Mom,” or “I appreciate it, Dad.”

But more often, it comes in the fulfillment of the hard work that was once put in — days, months, even years later.

When they point to that often-repeated book and say, “Mama, read” for the first time…

When they sleepily nuzzle you while you’re checking on them late at night…

When they see that you are stressed and they say, “Let me help you, Dad”…

When they beam with pride after winning the science fair or rush through the door to show you the straight A’s on their report card…

When they play you a song once they’ve finally mastered that instrument…

When they call you from their sleepover to tell you goodnight and they love you…

When they act like perfect gentlemen on their first date…

When they become hard workers…

When they start their own family and then come to you and say, “Wow, now I get it. I love you, Mom and Dad.”

How then, can we call it thankless?